Helicopter pilots answer Civil Defence SOS in Kaikoura following earthquake

Wanaka Helicopters managing director Pete Spencer-Bower takes a break from his work in Kaikoura following last week's ...
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Wanaka Helicopters managing director Pete Spencer-Bower takes a break from his work in Kaikoura following last week's earthquake.

As you reflect on last week's magnitude 7.8 shake, spare a thought for the largely unheralded regional helicopter pilots who dropped everything and flew into earthquake ravaged North Canterbury.

One of those pilots was Wanaka's Pete Spencer-Bower who, without a moment's hesitation, flew into the desperate region after offering his services to Civil Defence. Over the course of a week, he's been part of an operation that's flown up to 800 quake survivors to safety and been in and out of Kaikoura with food and supplies. 

"It's pretty amazing what's happened," Spencer-Bower said speaking from Kaikoura on Monday. "There's been massive sort of valley shifts. It's not going to be a fixed-by-tomorrow type thing. There's a long way to go."

An aerial image of Kaikoura after the earthquake. The seabed is estimated to have risen one and a half metres around the ...
Ross Giblin

An aerial image of Kaikoura after the earthquake. The seabed is estimated to have risen one and a half metres around the peninsula.

Spencer-Bower linked with Christchurch Helicopters to help with the evacuation of hundreds of locals and tourists, transporting doctors, nurses and Canterbury District Health Board staff into the region and taking medical supplies, food and water to places cut off by the quake.

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"We managed to move a lot of people very, very quickly. Most of them [the evacuees] were alright. There was a pretty good bit of action to get the people out of the township [on Tuesday]. We shifted about 300."

An aerial image of slips north of Kaikoura after the earthquake.
Ross Giblin

An aerial image of slips north of Kaikoura after the earthquake.

That day Spencer-Bower was back and forward to Christchurch from the cut-off region no less than five times and expected there was at least a week of work left before he would head home to his own family.

"There's still going to be a lot of work [but] ... the necessary relief work is slowing down."

The biggest problem for Spencer-Bower was the amount of air traffic with everyone trying to lend a hand where they could. But the response from different organisations and how the region had rallied had been remarkable, he said.

"The local community up here is pretty amazing."

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Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management director Sarah Stuart-Black said they were working with a number of agencies to ensure affected communities were getting what they needed.

"Every single one of these parties, and every single person involved, makes a difference and we are grateful for all the hard work being put in across the country."

 - Stuff

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